Few Physicians Are Bilingual Despite Growing Need

Lisa Diamond, MD, MPH, FACP | Assistant Attending Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences | Department of Medicine Evelyn Lauder Breast Center New York, NY 10065MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lisa Diamond, MD, MPH, FACP | Assistant Attending

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences | Department of Medicine Evelyn Lauder Breast Center New York, NY 10065

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Diamond: More than 25 million U.S. residents have limited English proficiency, an 80 percent increase from 1990 to 2010. Limited English proficiency (LEP) may impede participation in the English­ language-dominant health care system. Little is known about the non-English-language skills of physicians in training. In our analysis of the non-English-language skills of applicants to residency programs in the U.S., we found that although applicants are linguistically diverse, most of their languages do not match the languages spoken by the U.S. population with Limited English proficiency.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Diamond: The US Limited English proficiency population is growing. We need to do a better job of meeting the needs of this population with truly bilingual physicians or consistent use of professional interpreters.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Diamond: Further research is needed on whether increasing the number of bilingual residents, educating trainees on language services, or implementing medical Spanish courses as a supplement to (not a substitute for) interpreter use would improve care for Limited English proficiency patients.

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